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Watch out for the creator economy

Baoxuan Tan
Baoxuan Tan

June 16, 2022

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Over the past few years, we have witnessed many creator platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Roblox, Instagram surfacing and the rise of the creator economy on the back of these platforms. When we delve deeper into it, we see that this is largely driven by the Gen Zs. As digital natives, Gen Zs spend a considerable amount of time online as they have grown up with and form the majority of users on these platforms. In fact, over 60% of TikTok users are Gen Zs. As a customer segment, there is no doubt that Gen Zs will become increasingly important to brands as they begin to work, earn, and spend. To better engage Gen Zs, should your business pay more attention to creator platforms and what might you do about it?

Gen Zs and the rise of creator platforms 

The first step is to be willing to step away from traditional marketing channels and consider where the Gen Zs are spending the bulk of their time. Yes, social media platforms are important but not all are as impactful. Creator platforms are a subset of social media platforms that are characterised by a low barrier for users to create and share content, particularly video clips (think YouTube and TikTok). More importantly, they have or are beginning to have network effect with Gen Zs.

Creator platforms not only enable users to consume content, they also provide a space for the average Joe to be creative and create content. There is also no prerequisite to content creation these days; one does not need to be backed by a good and strong company or possess any credentials to start. Users can build up their credibility along the way as you create more content. Besides, people today want relatable and honest content. This makes it all the more easier for people to share their views and new perspectives. From a branding perspective, it is an effective word-of-mouth marketing tool.

In addition, the barrier to entry is also lower. As opposed to having a team with one person writing the storyboard, another to act, and one other person to film and take care of post-production, it can now be a solo show. Take TikTok for example, with many video filters and editing functions readily available, you can post a video within an hour. Creatorship is hence seen as a strategy for people who have pockets of free time and want to earn a side income, and with more people entering the space, brands need to rethink how they might be able to stand out among the large volume of content generated daily. 

While creator platforms are on the rise, not all are here to stay. Some are nothing more than a fad that fades over time. Take Clubhouse for example. It is an app that allows users to listen to their favourite celebrities and influencers as they discuss certain topics. Launched during the initial phase of Covid, it kept people connected in a more personal way. Its initial invite-only way of getting sign-ups played an important role in creating the perception that it is exclusive and you are part of the crowd if you are invited (the Gen Xs and Ys will remember this as a trick from Gmail’s playbook). Yet, as quickly as it rose, it faded away quickly as well.  According to ThinkImpact, Clubhouse hosts 10 million active users every week as of Feb 2021. As the pandemic eases and people start returning to the new normal, they would rather have actual face-to-face conversations instead of listening on the app. As of Jan 2022, the weekly active users dropped to 2 million.

Over US$1 billion
2021 VC investment in the creator economy 

While it’s hard to say if a particular platform is here to stay, we know for sure that the influence of the creator economy should not be underestimated. Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist, taught us that it is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change. Brands should constantly watch the space and adapt accordingly. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, over $1 billion in VC capital was invested in the creator economy last year. 

So what can brands do? 3 tips to get started.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

#1. Experiment working with content creators 

As Gen Zs frequent creator platforms, brands can look into how they might use these platforms and work with content creators to build up their brand image, market themselves and create personal experiences with their audiences. We recommend searching for creators that align with your brand personality and content relevant to your brand. You can start small as an experiment and track metrics, e.g. sales, weekly active users, etc., that matter for you before increasing your budget. For example, Liquid-Plumr, a brand of drain cleaner collaborated with Vat19, a YouTube creator to showcase how its product could tackle any kind of drain blockage, and achieved more than 5.5million viewership since 2019. 

Brands can check out the discover page to see the latest trends, e.g. #PeaceAndLove and jump onto the bandwagon to spread about mental health and wellbeing

#2. Stay on top of the trends. 

Brands should constantly watch the content on the platforms to identify the latest trends. Most of these platforms have a ‘Discover’ or ‘For You’ page that uses an algorithm to showcase the most popular posts or uprising trends within the community. You can start by jumping onto trendy topics that you think have potential and are relevant to your brands, so you stand a chance of becoming trendsetters by getting in early. We don’t recommend you try to get all the trends all the time - go at a pace that you’re comfortable with. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

#3. Build your own community 

Apart from working with content creators, there is value in having ownership over your own fanbase. Having a strong following on creator platforms benefits brands in terms of your brand loyalty. Offering sneak peaks and creating anticipation before product launches are effective ways to gain traction with consumers. 

What next?

There are multiple scenarios the creator economy can play out, and any one of these will present a radical change. Here are some thought starters:

  • Creators are moving their fans off social networks onto their own platforms. This is typical when creators venture into entrepreneurship and start selling products, and they drive traffic into their own businesses from their fanbase. Might brands collaborate with creators beyond marketing efforts to co-create a product for sale? Brands get to tap on creators’ fan bases while creators get guidance and capital as they build their own business. 
  • To nurture a similar kind of talent in-house or to breed innovation, might we see more companies encouraging employees to explore creatorship, such as a designated afternoon every month to do so? This might result in a companies-driven creator economy.
  • Lastly, have a think about creations in the metaverse, what kind of possibilities might emerge from them and how might you partner early adopters to help your brand stay ahead?

It will take some time for the creator economy to become mainstream, but disruption often comes unexpected, and fast. We urge brands to start by simply entering the scene – build up your presence, analyse trends and customer behaviour, and make use of technology to help you in doing so. 

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